Well, of course, I’ll defend anyone’s right to form a new word. That’s how language evolves.

Unfortunately, although it looks convincing in this cunningly-made image which appropriately reached me on Twitter, Shakespeare didn’t create the word covfefe (he — or the compositor of the “bad Quarto” — wrote flattery, if you care) and I don’t think our President intended to create a new vocabulary item either, though he seems actually to have managed to do this. I believe that, as a proud non-reader, the President thought this was how you’d spell kerfuffle, a word he’d heard but of course never seen. He probably paused to see if there was anyone around who could confirm the spelling, and hit “Send” by mistake.

Surprisingly NPR used both words in one headline without drawing what to me is the obvious conclusion. The alternative explanation, that he was on his way to type “coverage” and got out of control has a certain plausibility especially as the f and g keys are next to one another.

The truly excitable will be thrilled to know that the word “covfefe” appears on page 392 of the “book” entitled naxjbfyu in the Library of Babel, shelf reference number:

But of course since the Library of Babel, as envisaged by Jorge Louis Borges and realized by Jonathan Basile, exists to contain every conceivable text ever written or ever writable in every possible combination of characters, it would have to be there wouldn’t it? Computers are happy to do this sort of thing as long as you feed them sufficient electrical power and cooling. News of this Library of Babel, clearly an important contribution to human and non-human library resources, was sent by Quartz. It’s easier to access the Library itself by this link reached via Google.

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